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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Monday, October 8, 4:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, the Toronto Argonauts continue their chase for first place in the East Division on Monday afternoon at Rogers Centre, as they entertain the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Toronto, currently second in the division standings with 14 points, trailing Montreal which has produced eight wins in 13 opportunities, snapped a two-game slide last Saturday when it defeated Winnipeg on the road in a 29-10 final. The good news for the Argos at this stage of the campaign is that all but one of the final five games will be played at home, although the team is tied for the most points earned on the road (eight) thus far so perhaps playing in front of a favorable crowd isn't always optimum.
As for the Roughriders, they are already on that two-game win streak which Toronto is searching for at the moment. Third in the West Division standings, trailing British Columbia and Calgary by four and two points, respectively, Saskatchewan has beaten both of those clubs in the last two weeks. First, the team dropped the Stamps in a 30-25 decision at home on Sept. 23, and then six days later the Riders turned the trick against the Lions in a 27-21 final.
Darian Durant threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns as he helped guide the Riders to the thrilling six-point win over BC at Mosaic Stadium.
Weston Dressler, a five year vet in the CFL, entered the game never having registered a receiving touchdown against the Lions and ended up with two in the first half as the Roughriders registered their fourth win in the last five outings. Durant converted 26-of-34 passes, with nine completions going to Dressler who finished with a game-high 160 yards.
Defensively, the Riders nearly kept BC out of the end zone and came close to snapping Travis Lulay's run of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass at 23, but the crafty signal-caller not only broke through in the waning moments, he directed a couple of TD drives that made the final outcome not so comfortable for Saskatchewan.
Earlier in the evening Toronto went on the attack at Winnipeg, scoring 21 points in the first quarter as it cruised to the easy victory. Quarterback Jarious Jackson, who was filling in for Ricky Ray as the starter for the first time this season, was rather modest in his passing exploits as he completed 17-of-28 passes for 155 yards and a score, while suffering a pair of sacks.
On the ground, Jackson scored on a one-yard run for the first points of the contest and finished with 51 yards which was second only to Chad Kackert who registered a game-best 86 yards on 20 carries.
Despite being used rather sparingly on offense, credited with just one rushing attempt and one catch, Chad Owens made his presence felt as he produced 94 combined yards in order to reach 3,000 for the third straight campaign. Owens, the only player to have achieved the feat more than twice, now has 3,009 yards even after having his lowest output of the campaign.
With five games remaining, the former Hawaii Warrior is setting his sights on becoming the only player in professional football history to record a 4,000- yard season, but he'll need a lot help to make it happen. With Ray on the injured list now, Owens would be wise to get in some additional reps at practice with Jackson so that he'll be more of a factor on offense and won't have to rely so much on kick returns to build his stats.
While the Argos are making the transition to Jackson, the Roughriders are counting on Durant to get them over the hump again this week. Converting 64.5 percent of his pass attempts in 2012, the signal-caller is on the cusp of reaching 3,000 passing yards, but what should be more important to him and the team is for Durant to have a more sizeable differential between his passing touchdowns (15) and interceptions (nine) this last in the season.
Durant needs to be careful not to make too many bad decisions with the ball because the Argos have become hawks when it comes to picking off passes. Toronto is first in the league with 20 INTs, a lofty number which has pushed the group to the top in terms of turnover margin as well, with a plus-12.
Winners of six of the last eight encounters, the Riders posted a 30-20 win over Toronto in the most recent meeting back on Sept. 17, 2011. Set to meet one more time during this regular season three weeks from now in Saskatchewan, the Riders maintain a 44-35-1 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series going back to 1945.
With much of the focus falling on Owens now, perhaps Jackson can slip under the radar and play just well enough to earn the Argos another victory, but it won't be easy even at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 23, Saskatchewan 17
10/03 11:30:05 ET
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